Leading exhibition designers, Mather & Co, are responsible for the exhibition design, content development, and internal and external interpretation throughout the site. Mather & Co has also designed the new site tour – due to open in 2023.
Paul Lee, Design Director at Mather & Co said: “From the grandparent of skyscrapers to the ground-breaking conservation and restoration project, the new interpretation and exhibition spaces tell the story of this unique site and celebrates the individuals and communities who have helped shape what we see today.
“It has been a pleasure and privilege for Mather & Co to be a part of this journey. We hope this will connect with today’s audiences and bring these stories to life through the new exhibition spaces for the next generation of visitors.”
The restoration of the Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II listed Kiln at the site has been supported by a £20.7 million grant thanks to National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government, and from project partners Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.
Robyn Llewellyn, Director of England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are thrilled to have supported the redevelopment of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings with a grant of £20.7m, made possible thanks to National Lottery players. I would like to thank Historic England and The Friends of Flaxmill Maltings for their tireless efforts in bringing this important heritage site back to life, ensuring its trailblazing history is preserved for all to celebrate.”
Upon completion in 1797, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was the world’s first iron-framed building that paved the way for skyscrapers around the world – making the site internationally significant. Historic England took leadership of the project in 2014, with the goal to create a long-term future for Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings by developing a hub where the community can visit, work, eat and learn.
Alastair Godfrey, project lead at Historic England said: “After years of restoration work, we can’t wait to welcome visitors from all over Shrewsbury, Shropshire and beyond to visit this fascinating and important site and to learn more about its role in the region and in shaping the modern world.”
Created by Historic England and exhibition consultants Mather & Co, new exhibition The Mill tells the story of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and its crucial role in the industrial revolution. The exhibition is split into five themes: ‘Town and Transformation’, which focuses on the development of the site and how it has influenced, transformed and helped develop the town of Shrewsbury over time; ‘Engineering and Build’, which focuses on how Charles Bage designed this ‘fireproof textile mill’ through experimentation and innovation; ‘People and Process’, which tells of the men, women and children at the flax mill who suffered the harsh working conditions of this early industrial factory, and the experiences and memories of the maltsters and their families after the later conversion into a maltings; ‘Adaptation and Change’ explaining how the site has changed to fit with the various uses; and ‘Legacy and Impact’ which details the final transformation and future legacy of the site for local people, businesses and visitors alike.
Exhibition highlights include a large 3D mill model which reveals what happened inside the building at different points in time; an interactive touch table, physical interactives taking visitors through the process of spinning thread and the many uses of flax; a floor projection telling the story of the Maltings; audio exhibits providing the opportunity to hear from former Maltings workers and their families and those involved in the restoration project in their own words; and a large wall graphic featuring an iron truss from 1840 telling the story of how Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings inspired skylines across the world. The exhibition also features a multisensory AV experience in the old Engine House; a short film which brings the Mill’s original steam engine to life in situ and features sensory effects of the engines and machinery.
A Workshop of Ideas space encourages big and small kids to explore and test ideas behind the pioneering design and innovative breakthroughs behind this engineering marvel and come up with their own creative constructions. In order to make the story more accessible, two cats named Flax and Barley have also been created to guide children and families through the exhibition and around the site, posing questions and pointing out interesting facts out along the way.
The ground floor of the historic Main Mill will also be home to a shop and new independent café. Turned Wood Café will be run by the local owners behind Shropshire’s The Green Wood Café and based on the principles of accessibility and environmental awareness. The new café will provide plant-based food and drinks including house blend coffee which is specially blended and roasted for the site.The new shop will showcase local produce, with more than 50 per cent of products sourced from local suppliers, and 90 per cent from across the UK.The upper four floors of the Main Mill provide approximately 28,000 square feet of unique commercial office space with additional circulation and meeting spaces within the Kiln for commercial tenants.
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has a ground-source heat pump that will part power the exhibition – there are also reused materials incorporated in the base build of the exhibition space and window ledges. The site is a flagship project for Historic England in demonstrating how historic buildings can be sustainably reused and how technology can be used in heritage sites to help tackle climate change.
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings opens to the public on 10th September 2022.